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Favorite Nonfiction of 2015

Over the seven years that I’ve been a blogger, I’ve averaged about 60 percent nonfiction and 40 percent fiction. These percentages have been remarkably consistent, and without much effort on my part. But this year was a big departure from that trend – at last count, I was at less than 40 percent nonfiction for the year. I’m not sure what to attribute that shift to, but I do know I hope to get back closer to 50/50 for 2016.

favorite nonfiction of 2015

That doesn’t mean I didn’t read some great nonfiction this year. Looking back, I’m happy with the titles I picked up and the ones that made my favorites of the year. The same caveats mentioned in my favorite fiction post apply here: first, it doesn’t include just books published in 2015, it’s pulled from all the books I read this year. Second, I don’t think these books are necessarily the best books of the year, they’re just the books that I loved most. And third, they’re listed in no particular order — I loved each of them nearly equally as much. With that, the list!

The Lonely War by Nazila Fathi – This excellent book is a balanced, nuanced account of life in modern day Iran told by a journalist who experienced intimidation and threats from the Iranian government.

Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin – If you like to think about work, or often imagine getting out of your head and finding a way to work with your hands, make sure you pick up this memoir.

Being Mortal Atul Gawande – This is probably the most important book I read this year, all about modern aging and how we can better handle the needs of our aging friends and relatives. Honestly, everyone should read this book.

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette – This was, hands down, the most fun work of nonfiction I read this year. If you were bit by the Beanie Baby bug, this is a must read.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield – This memoir, about what it takes to become an astronaut, and what being an astronaut can teach us about hard work and teamwork, was a surprising delight.

It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario – This was the best memoir about work-life balance and being a working mother that I’ve ever read, mostly because that wasn’t the point of the book. Addario is a war photographer and this book is the story of her career and life path. It was so, so interesting.

Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean – What does it mean that the United States has ended the shuttle program? Dean, a passionate space nerd, offers a history of the shuttle program and a fan’s love letter to space exploration. It was a lot of fun.

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel – Finkel’s true stories about the cost of war, on soldiers and their families, was heartbreaking but wonderful.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – Actually, Just Mercy is the most important book I read this year (sorry, Being Mortal). Stevenson is a lawyer who works to overturn death penalty cases in the south. This book is a frightening indictment on the flaws of our criminal justice system.

Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker – I thought this memoir in letters was beautifully written, but it’s not for everyone.

And finally, a few books that would have made the list if it were longer than 10 books:

Honorable Mentions: The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower, Blackout by Sarah Hepola, The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sarah's Book Shelves December 22, 2015, 6:52 am

    I really enjoyed the Beanie Baby book as well – I never got bit by the bug, but I found the entire thing bizarre/fascinating looking back on it now! And – Thank You For Your Service is so powerful…it made my overall favorites list the year it came out. Would still like to read Being Mortal and Hammerhead.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:14 pm

      I’m kind of surprised that book wasn’t a bigger deal this year. Will all the Millennial nostalgia it brought up for me, I figured more people would be into it.

  • Lory @ Emerald City Book Review December 22, 2015, 7:08 am

    I’m going to read Being Mortal and Just Mercy this year, I swear. Hammer Head and Leaving Orbit have also been on my list for a while. It’s What I Do and The Lonely War are new to me but sound so interesting. Thanks for all the great recommendations!

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:14 pm

      Being Mortal and Just Mercy are really stellar — definitely read them when you get the chance.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) December 22, 2015, 7:46 am

    I do enjoy good non-fiction but don’t read as much as you do. I’ve only read one on your list – Dear Mr. You – and it didn’t work for me.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:15 pm

      Most of the rest of these are much more straightforward than Dear. Mr. You — lots of journalistic nonfiction.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading December 22, 2015, 8:17 am

    Oh, I totally forgot about the Beanie Baby book – that was one I was really interested in back when you first mentioned it. So glad you got to Just Mercy this year, it was such a great read.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:15 pm

      So good! I’m going to be a book pusher for that one, I’m sure.

  • tanya (52 books or bust) December 23, 2015, 4:30 am

    I’m seeing that Beenie Babies book on all sorts of lists. I never would have considered picking it up, but maybe i should.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:16 pm

      It was so fun, and super weird. I liked it a lot!

  • Michelle December 23, 2015, 11:58 am

    I need to find out whether I have a copy of Just Mercy in my stacks of books. I have been meaning to get to it.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:16 pm

      Read it! That one is so great.

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves December 23, 2015, 3:55 pm

    Oh, my goodness, I had SO MANY Beanie Babies when I was in middle school. I have no idea where they are now – probably sold in a garage sale at some point. A book about the whole phenomenon would be fascinating!

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:17 pm

      I still have a few of mine taking up space in my childhood bedroom. I think my mom is going to make me get rid of them this year…

  • Jenny @ Reading the End December 26, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Wow! I didn’t realize you read that high a percentage of nonfiction — even forty percent seems really high to me, let alone sixty! I don’t count the stuff I read for research in my blogging stats, so I know my numbers are skewing low, but I read fifteen percent nonfiction this year and felt it was quite high. Still, I’m depending on you to read as much nonfiction as possible, because I get so many excellent recommendations from you!

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:17 pm

      I will try to keep up the good work of reading great nonfiction 🙂

  • Aarti December 28, 2015, 9:53 am

    I agree with Jenny, very impressive non-fiction stats! I have had the Gawande book on my list for quite a while but have not gotten around to starting it. I feel like it will be a tough read, and I am not sure if I am ready for it yet.

    I do want to look into the Iranian journalist’s book, though – that sounds great.

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:18 pm

      I cried several times reading Being Mortal because so much of it close to what my family is dealing with right now. I think anyone with aging relatives will have that experience. Hard but important.

  • Lisa January 2, 2016, 11:50 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen a single best-of list that doesn’t have Being Mortal on it. How could I not have read it yet?!

    • Kim January 3, 2016, 1:18 pm

      I’m not sure — pick it up!

  • susan January 4, 2016, 9:20 pm

    Nice list. I definitely want to read It’s What I Do. After I read your review I thought it sounded really good. Thx for the suggestion. It’s on my TBR